News broke Monday night that Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields was planning to transfer from the Bulldogs football program. This, of course, sent the internet abuzz, as the internet is wont to do.
It was also quickly followed with the names Ohio State and Oklahoma as being the front runners to land his services.
Who is Justin Fields, you ask, and why should people care?
Fields was the No. 2 player in the 2018 recruiting class and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. Out of Kennesaw, Georgia, he was at one time committed to Penn State before eventually signing with Georgia.
Why would he sign with Georgia when he watched true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm lead the Bulldogs to a College Football Playoff berth just weeks before? That’s a great question and one that may bring his decision making into doubt.
Where there is no doubt, however, is the talent that Fields possesses.
As a true freshman this season, Fields has completed 27-of-39 passes (.692) for 328 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has run the ball 42 times for 266 yards (6.3 ypc) and another four touchdowns.
Last summer, he impressed everyone at The Opening with his ability to throw the ball from all manners of angles. His 4.51 40-yard dash wasn’t too shabby either. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he possesses every physical attribute you could want out of a quarterback.
Who couldn’t want this guy in their quarterback room, right?
Just how soon he would be eligible to play, however, is still a question mark.
Generally, a freshman transferring would have to sit out the following season, but there are reports that Fields will seek a waiver request to play right away.
As to what justification he would have for having that waiver granted, there was an incident back in the fall where Fields was allegedly a victim of racial slurs from a University of Georgia baseball player. It is presumed that this could provide the necessary impetus to make Fields eligible immediately. He is also reportedly in contact with an attorney who has litigated successful appeals in the past.
Regardless of when he might be eligible, the question for Ohio State is should Ryan Day and the Buckeyes get involved?
Not long after news broke about Fields’ intention, I got the following message from an NFL scout.
“If he goes to OSU, he is the starter Day 1.”
When exactly that ‘Day 1’ would be is up in the air, but if he did transfer to Ohio State, it could cause issues long before any eligibility decisions are made.
Even with the expected departure of Dwayne Haskins to the NFL, there are still two quarterbacks on the OSU roster who expect to be competing for the starting quarterback job next year.
Adding a player like Justin Fields into the mix could cause some problems. Tate Martell or Matthew Baldwin or incoming freshman Dwan Mathis could view this as a vote of no confidence in their abilities.
As Urban Meyer likes to say, however, ‘That’s life in the big city.’
If Fields does transfer to Ohio State, Ryan Day would have to make some serious decisions because his eligibility likely wouldn’t be finalized until after spring ball. Last year, Michigan quarterback and Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson wasn’t cleared to play right away until April 26, for instance.
So not knowing if Fields will be eligible and needing to get as many spring reps as possible for Martell and Baldwin, would those two get the majority of the snaps? Probably, as they should.
If Fields is then made immediately eligible after the spring, fall camp would be his first real opportunity to compete for the job, which would make next year’s August almost as newsworthy as the August this year.
If he isn’t ruled eligible right away, then there will be an incumbent starter entering the 2020 season who will then seemingly have to win the job all over again.
This is not a bad thing and it’s a way to keep players from being complacent. That may not be how the starter views it, however.
There is also the question of whether or not Fields is even a cultural fit at Ohio State.
Ultimately, it would be up to Ryan Day to decide what kind of teammate Fields is, and then also mold him into the leader the position requires.
Many people expected Fields to eventually take the job from Jake Fromm this season, but that did not happen.
If he does choose to transfer, he will still carry those same expectations with him.
The question then becomes what happens if he doesn’t win the job at Ohio State?
And also what happens if he does?
The bottom line is that the Buckeyes could use another quarterback. Bringing Justin Fields into the fold would solve that, but it would also be inviting plenty of drama in Ryan Day’s first full go-round as Ohio State’s head coach.
As to the dilemma facing Day, don’t feel too bad for him.
That’s life in the big city, after all.